I'm a professional fashion and beauty writer, but long before I became one, I was a hardcore fashion and beauty shopper. In fact, my shopping habits have gotten me so far down the hole that I've had to come up with a set of shopping resolutions in order to curb them. Don't get me wrong: I love shopping, and I don't think that people who share that love are frivolous, materialistic over-spenders. We're just a very particular breed of humans who happen to get our jollies from an activity that many folks despise.
That being said, shopping is one of those hobbies that can get really expensive, really quickly. It's also been said to have addictive properties, which means that what starts off as an innocent browsing of the shoe section can turn into a serious budget issue. I've had plenty of experience getting myself in and out of shopping debt in the past — and in the last year, I've made serious progress. I've become a much more discerning shopper, conscientious of what I have, what I need, and what my budget is at all times. These are the tips I've put together so you can do the same, whether you're a casual over-spender or a serious shopaholic. Before you hit the next round of sales at your favorite stores, take this advice into consideration. Here are some smart shopping resolutions for 2016.
1. Take A Serious Inventory Of What You Already Have
"I need a pair of new black ankle booties," I tell my boyfriend. Of course, he knows the truth: There are already a couple of different pairs shoved in the back of my closet. Serious fashion lovers might honestly find themselves forgetting what they've already got, which is why taking an inventory of your wardrobe is super important. This is incredibly pertinent for beauty lovers as well, because who hasn't ended up with three or four bottles of hand cream in the past?
2. Outline A Strict Shopping Budget For The Month
This is highly dependent on your income and expenses, but the important thing is to set out a realistic clothing budget for yourself every month, and not to stray from it. If you've spent your shopping budget and happen to come across the perfect handbag, too bad: It has to wait until next month to come home.
3. Avoid Credit Cards
According to personal finance site Simple Dollar, the average American household credit card debt was around $15,609 in 2015. There's a reason people who love to shop so easily fall into the trap, myself included: You likely convince yourself that the credit card will help you acquire what you want now, and that you'll somehow come up with the money to pay it off later. Unfortunately, this is rarely true. Instead, only purchase items that you can pay for upfront, with cash or an ATM card. You'll find that doing so will help prevent extraneous, impulsive shopping — and probably improve your credit score quite a bit.
4. Hold Off On Purchasing An Item For A Few Days
When it comes to shopping at my favorite stores, witnesses have often described my eyes glazing over and my body going into autopilot. For me, fashion and beauty are often about the thrill of finding a great item, and when I have in the past, I've bought it without much thought. Unfortunately, this often led to regret later on — a feeling that can be avoided if you simply wait a few days (I usually wait a week) to purchase. By that time, the thrill of finding the item will have faded, and I can more easily determine if I really want it or not. And if it happens to be sold out at that point, well, I consider it fate.
5. Don't Shop Idly
In other words, don't pop into Urban Outfitters on your lunch break when you really have no business there. What starts off as a cheap pair of Oxfords can quickly become $100 of extraneous merchandise that you probably won't even remember you bought. Why not go to your favorite spot and have a coffee instead?
6. Try To Avoid Fashion & Beauty-Related Social Media
There's nothing that gets me more in the mood to shop than seeing my favorite bloggers and editors reviewing, styling, and suggesting products. While that's definitely a way to keep up with what's happening in fashion and beauty, it can also be a little too effective. If you're trying to avoid shopping, take a break from shopping-related social media as well.
7. When You Do Shop, Shop For The Life You Have
Sure, in another lifetime you might definitely need that encrusted blazer or those spiked Louboutin ankle booties. However, in this lifetime, you need to pay rent. For me, it's easy to get caught up in mentally styling outfits I could wear on such-and-such occasion. But when it comes to spending money, it's more financially sound to only purchase items you'll actually use on a regular basis. The best part? You probably already have plenty of those, so there's no need to shop at all.
8. Don't Be Lazy: Return Things That Don't Fit
I know I'm not the only one who has a bag full of items that I ultimately forgot to return. If you're going to shop online, you must resolve yourself to being proactive about returning the items you don't like or won't wear. Otherwise, you're simply throwing money down the drain.
9. When In Doubt, Just Stay Home (And Offline)
If you're new to the whole "curb your shopping" game, it might be a better idea to avoid it completely. Don't visit your favorite sites, don't visit the malls, and don't make a pitstop at that fast fashion store while you're out running errands. For those of us who love to shop but hate to spend, omitting it completely can mean we free up time (not to mention money) for other things.
These are the ways I've gotten my shopping and budget under control. Next time you feel the urge to fill your closets and shelves, take them under serious consideration. Doing so will save you an epic amount of dollars — and who could possibly argue with that?